Employers are increasingly building in-house sourcing functions to facilitate more proactive and strategic recruitment, says US-based sourcing expert, Glen Cathey.
In a webinar on sourcing hosted by InsideJob, Cathey, of KForce Inc, said the business case for sourcing is a simple one to make - just explain that the company can't attract passive candidates using job boards.
"Job posting is what everybody does, but the reality is when you post a job you have no control over who comes to you. You have to wonder exactly what is the return on investment from posting a job? You're only going to attract active candidates - you certainly can't get a passive candidate by posting a job - and most companies are enamoured of the concept of 'I want the passive person'.
"[To explain] how valuable [sourcing] is, just point out that on average, the minority of all people are actively looking. In the US... the generally accepted data point is that about 14 per cent of people are actively looking at any one point in time. About 22 per cent are passively looking, and about 24 per cent are not looking. So if you do the math there, about 56 per cent of people are either passive or not looking. That's the majority of the talent pool, and those are also what hiring managers and executives typically want you to go find - that gem of a person who's doing a great job at a competitor.
"Sourcing is the only way to be able to go out and hunt those people who aren't looking for you."
Five levels of search
Sourcing, Cathey says, "is primarily about talent discovery and identification. The discovery piece is finding people. Identification is taking the person you have discovered and trying to figure out whether or not they might be qualified and of course interested and recruitable for a particular position".
He says there are five levels of online talent mining, or "descriptors for a way of leveraging human capital data":
Keyword search - The most basic level of sourcing, this involves taking keywords and titles from a job description, and entering them into a search engine to find people. "Pretty much anybody can do this", he says, "and it works";
Conceptual search - "At this point you're stepping up a notch, taking concepts you're looking for and looking for variants of those keywords as well as the different titles that people may or may not use";
Implicit search - "Some people have skills and experience that you need, and are qualified for your position, but they don't explicitly mention it. You have to find ways to leverage data that you have access to - whether it be job boards or LinkedIn or Twitter - and figure out how to look for people that have implied skills. In other words... they have a high probability of having that skill based on what they say about themselves";
Semantic search - Instead of looking for a keyword noun like a skill or title, you look for verbs. "Typically a skill like Java or 'accounts payable', they're nouns. But you're not just looking for people who say things like that - you're looking for people who have had specific responsibilities, which are always verbs. So you figure out which verbs and phrases to add into your searches, to find people who talk about doing the right thing"; and
Indirect search - "Very few people do this, but it's very powerful. It's leveraging information you have access to, such as LinkedIn, and looking for the 'wrong' people, to find the 'right' people. So for example if I was looking for a business analyst, I could think, 'I've already looked for all the business analysts and people who I think might be business analysts, but who works with the business analysts?' I'd call them to do some phone networking and see if I can get referred to the right person."
But it is not enough to simply identify people who might have the skills for your jobs, Cathey says.
Careful analysis of their career trajectory - what they've done so far, and what they might be interested in next - is vital to ensure that when you make contact, it's with information they're likely to welcome.
A recent survey by LinkedIn has shown that the vast majority of people would not mind being contacted by a recruiter, "but the catch was that it had to be relevant", Cathey says.
"Unless you're sourcing, and looking for information and clues about a person, there's no way possible for you to pitch a relevant opportunity to them."
What to look for in a sourcer
It is challenging for employers new to the sourcing concept to figure out who to hire for their teams, Cathey says.
In his experience, the people who turn out to be the strongest sourcers are often those with no prior research experience.
Cathey says employers should look for people who are:
problem solvers - "but more than that, people who enjoy solving problems". Some people are "excuse-oriented" when they don't achieve their desired result, he says, but "a person who is going to be good at sourcing is someone who never gives up. Failure is not an option";
competitive - "you can interview people for this. The people who had to get the best result in their team. Losing for me is failing to show up with highly qualified candidates, no matter how difficult the job"; and
slightly obsessive - "These people do incredibly well in sourcing... The only reason people [in any area] are the top of their field is because they're obsessed with what they do".
"You need the right person on the inside, because the rest can be trained," Cathey says. "Those traits... cannot be trained and you'll never make someone [who doesn't have them] into a great sourcer. You can train someone who already has those internal characteristics to use those traits to become a good sourcer, but I don't think you can change someone's basic DNA."